I am a better player than last year: Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza has received a lift in her already booming career.
The Indian tennis ace closed her 2013 season by winning the prestigious WTA China Open, and declared that she is a better player compared to what she was last year.
The China Open offered 500 more ranking points and a hefty $1,26,420 more to the women's doubles winners than the victorious men's team in the same tournament.
It was Sania's fifth title of the season, during which she was forced to switch partners frequently for several reasons.
Image: Sania Mirza of India serves
Photographs: Mark Blinch/Reuters
'My serve has improved'
In 2012, Sania won two titles and finished runners-up in three others, including the China Open.
She ended this season with back-to-back titles with Zimbabwea's Cara Black, with whom she joined forces for the Japan Open. The partnership took off with a trophy in the team's first tournament.
"I think, I have improved all round. My fitness levels are better. I have also improved myself around the net. My serve has improved, so I am a better player than what I was last year," Sania said.
"There is no better way to finish the year. I have been playing well. Sometimes you are unlucky and you don't win despite playing well. I am happy that I was able to convert these big moments and we played really well, especially in the last couple of weeks," she added.
Image: Sania Mirza
Photographs: Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters
'It's great to play with Cara'
Even as she changed five partners in 2013, Sania won titles with three of them -- American Bethanie-Mattek Sands, Chinese Jie Zheng and Cara.
In their unbeaten nine-match streak, Sania and Cara also shocked the world No 1 team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals of the China Open.
However, Sania said they played their best in the summit clash, in which they scored a dominating 6-2, 6-2 win over Vera Dusheniva and Arantxa Parra Santonja.
"It's great to play with Cara. She is amazing and had been the No 1 in the world. Her serve is great, we played out best match in the final," she said.
Image: Cara Black of Zimbabwe, holding her son Lachlan, and Sania Mirza
Photographs: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
'Cara and I play very opposite games and that's why we are matching'
Talking about playing with Cara, with whom she has extended her partnership for the full 2014 season, Sania said their on-court chemistry works well.
"Cara and I play very opposite games and that's why we are matching. She is very good at the net and I hit from the back of the court very big; we complement each other well.
"I am playing with Cara next year. We have decided to play together full season," she said.
Image: Sania Mirza (right) and Cara Black
Photographs: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images
'If someone is getting injured or something, you have to take it'
Despite a stellar show all through the season, Sania cannot compete in the year-end finals, as her partnership with Bethanie-Mattek Sands broke due to injury to the American after playing together for half the season.
Sania, though, is hopeful that things will be different in 2014.
"It's tough, but that's how it works. There are things which are not under your control; you cannot do much about that. If someone is getting injured or something, you have to take it. You cannot do much about it. Hopefully, next year."
Image: Sania Mirza